Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary’s “Herb of the Month: Ginger”

This week we have a post from Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary that is all about ginger, the herb of the month.  This includes the benefits from eating ginger and different uses for it.

Herb of the Month: Ginger

by Kulreet Chaudhary, MD

ginger tea

Ginger is one of the natural home remedies that has actually been tested and researched by the medical community. Ginger has been used for thousands of years in India for many different ailments, in addition to being used as a garnish in everyday cooking. Ginger is added to chai, Indian tea, to help counteract some of the negative effects of caffeine. Ginger is also recognized as an effective home remedy by many other cultures around the world.

The three most commonly studied roles of ginger are as a digestive aid, anti-inflammatory, and immunity booster. Ginger is also being studied for the treatment of colon and ovarian cancer.

Digestive Aid

What is so special about ginger besides the nice little zing it adds to your food? In ayurveda, diet is the basis for a healthy, balanced body and mind. If your digestion is working properly then, according to ayurveda, chronic disease cannot take root in your body. Ginger stimulates good digestion, the basis of health. Ginger stimulates the digestive “fire” by helping the body to release the proper enzymes to break down food so nutrients can be easily absorbed. For people suffering from a loss of appetite, such as during chemotherapy, ginger can stimulate hunger.

Ginger has been proven to be a powerful treatment for nausea, morning sickness, and motion sickness. There is nothing more soothing to an upset stomach than a warm cup of ginger tea. The studies touting the benefits of ginger are prevalent enough that many doctors recommend the use of ginger over prescription medications for nausea. For pregnant women who are suffering from severe cases of morning sickness and do not want to take medications, ginger offers safe, effective relief from their symptoms. Ginger is also excellent for getting rid of gas and abdominal pain due to intestinal spasms. (If you are tired of your spouse’s gas problem, introduce them to ginger.)

Anti-inflammatory

Ginger contains strong anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These naturally occurring compounds help reduce pain and increase mobility in individuals who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ginger not only lowers inflammation but it also has molecules that improve joint circulation. In studies, ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for the treatment of osteoarthritis, but without any of the negative effects on the stomach associated with ibuprofen. In fact, ginger actually helps to alleviate stomach problems rather than cause them. People who are suffering from arthritis can add ginger to their daily routine to find relief from their pain without worrying about damaging their gut.

Immune Health

According to ayurveda, ginger warms the body and helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in the organs, particularly in the lungs and sinuses.  Ginger helps to cleanse the lymphatic system, which is our body’s sewage system. By opening up these lymphatic channels and keeping things clean, ginger prevents the accumulation of the toxins that make you susceptible to infections, especially in the respiratory system. It doesn’t take long to see the benefits of ginger when you have a sore throat and a cold. Ginger is a must-have food during flu season.

Ways to Use Ginger

There are several ways to incorporate ginger into your life. Ginger supplements are readily available at most health food stores and online. The typical starting dose is 250mg a day, but depending on the condition, much higher doses can be used. Always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement to your regimen.

My favorite way to use ginger is adding fresh ginger directly into my meals. I typically cut a half-inch of fresh ginger and cut it into small pieces and sauté it with other spices to add that extra kick to my dishes. During flu season or whenever I feel a cold coming on, I make ginger tea a couple of times a week to keep my immune system strong.

Ginger Tea Recipe

Cut one inch of fresh ginger root – use two inches if you want the tea to be stronger. Cut it into small pieces and add it directly into a pot of water. Let it boil for 10 minutes. You can add honey and lemon to taste. Put the tea in a thermos and take small sips throughout the day.

Now you have an immune-boosting, sore-throat-relieving, stomach-calming tonic made in your own kitchen that you can consume any time of the year.

Bonus: The ginger plant is a spectacular plant to view and adds a brilliant splash of color to your vegetable garden. I still remember the first time I saw the flowers of a ginger plant in Thailand with their vibrant red petals reaching for the sun in perfect symmetry. I was surprised that such a hearty, medicinal root had flowers that were so dramatically beautiful. Whether you plant ginger in your garden for its looks or bring it into your kitchen, it is an addition to the home worth making.

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